I didn’t know what to expect as I walked into the Silent Grace “offices” for the interview. However, I was curious, very curious, to meet the young founder of this very different organization.
First off, the “office”, was actually Andrea Pérez’s living room; the founder and executive director. In June of 2008, after returning from 6 months of voluntary work in Sudan and Uganda, Andrea decided to create an organization focused on action and not simply awareness. “The simple awareness of an issue, does not lead to action,” says Andrea. Silent Grace Foundation was born out of this desire. It’s purpose is to help communities with urgent needs so that they may achieve self-sufficiency. At the moment, Silent Grace focuses its attention on the small rural community of Dessources in Haiti.
“What do you need?” asked Andrea to community leaders when she first arrived in Haiti 3 years ago. To which everybody just laughed. No organization that came to help had ever asked that. And since then, Silent Grace Foundation always involves the entire community in their projects. They are consulted about needs and desires and projects are approved or declined by community members.
After a comprehensive analysis of 3 different communities, Silent Grace chose Dessources: a small community (approximately 450) near the capital with urgent needs of water purification, food security, and fecal matter decontamination due to clogged up latrines. All these issues are aggravated by Haiti’s over-all deforestation.
Silent Grace tackles all issues with a team of highly educated professionals including, agronomists, engineers, college professors, psychologists and even a yoga teacher. All of them provide their time and brains in a volunteer capacity. Already, they have provided the community with seminars on water purification, organic home crops and composting material for conditioning the soil. Also, their very first ecological toilet, destined to help with the “waste that in not waste” problem, was recently finished! Until now, the people of Dessources had to defecate on the hill. Coupled with serious flooding issues, when it rained, the community swam in its own filth.
But that is not enough. Silent Grace’s project is an ambitious one. It is a long-term project that involves all aspects of the community. Aside from the construction of 5 more toilets, they have begun an agricultural project termed “farmer to farmer” in which members of the same community acquire and share their agricultural knowledge. Under the direction of agronomist Georges Félix, this project aims to identify community leaders who are already knowledgeable in farming, so that they may share and expand their knowledge with other members of the community. Together they have identified available food crops in the area and are exploring and encouraging the exchange of seeds among the farmers.
They have involved the women of Dessources so that they establish their own home gardens with edibles and medicinal plants that they may share amongst themselves. They are also exploring the possibility of introducing bamboo (Guadua) from Guatemala to help in reforestation and for providing building and kindling material.
In the end, Silent Grace wishes for Dessources to not need them because they will be left with the tools to become self-sufficient. Like the saying of the fisherman: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” That is the work of Silent Grace Foundation.
All pictures provided by the Silent Grace Foundation.
Original article published in Spanish at: